The Story of Pilot Training Class 63-G

Craig AFB, Alabama



Part One

Shoulder patch of 63-G.

On April 23, 1962, each of the forty-four men who began pilot training at Craig AFB, Alabama, had a diverse background, but they shared a common apprehension concerning the schedule that they were to encounter. True unity in the class was to be formed through a will to work together in order to achieve a common goal--our wings. Formal training began with the altitude chamber, oxygen equipment orientation, and the use of an ejection seat. We were eager to begin flying, and the first few weeks of preflight only seemed to slow our progress toward this ultimate goal. We started Engineering at Academics and headed out to the flight line for our first real close look at the object of our first half-year of training--the Cessna T-37.

Emergency procedures, boners for missing them, saluting, inspections, and all the chicken "s---"that went with them kept us busy before we finally got into the Tweety Bird for the first time. Actually, we were a fairly gung ho flight in those first weeks. We howled our approval when someone asked us how we liked the "37." "Great little bird, Eh men?" And naturally we'd come back with something like "yrowhhhphf," with feeling. We complied with "TGIF Sir!" when it was, and generally began to merge into a loose class framework.

Further orientation and introduction into the mechanics of flying brought us to the great gastric challenge--the dollar ride. The challenge was too much, and half of the class obliged by filling a (" here, slob...") barf bag, mask, or cockpit; emphasis here must lie on the word pit. The going price to have the "delectables sanitized" was $10.00 per pit, but those of us who became proficient at whipping out that little plastic bag only had to pay off a crew chief once, if at all. Some of us, like Dick Orsini, supposedly had to control the urp up and then knuckle back down to work. But, the reaction that was most consistently favored was one of utmost exhaustion and the feeling that perhaps you had been tricked by the AFROTC Cadre into this unwholesome predicament. We were the men who would one day inherit the reins of aerospace supremacy, but right then we couldn't have given less of a damn.

By this time we were learning emergency procedures at the rate of two per day, which in later months just about coincided with our rate of forgetfulness. The penalty for such gross incompetence was automatic grounding, class stigma, and, which was far worse, counseling by the Flight Commander. No one envied the members who entered that cavern at the front of the flight shack to be chewed out for a sufficient period of time. It was a crushing blow to a young tiger's pride, besides it wasn't a hell of a lot of fun.

After twelve or thirteen rides, we followed J. J. Cool Guy's (John Crone's) lead and ventured out into the wild blue you-know-what alone. The empty seat wasn't designed as the world's biggest confidence factor, but we managed to squeak around the prescribed course for three landings. All but the Sheik (Assadullah) did it with a measure of aplomb. Who among us can forget these immortal words, "What means speed brake?" We had started the big move toward airborne proficiency. From this time on we each began to develop our own brand of somewhat overripe self-confidence. As a direct by-product of our first solo flights, the idea of total class unity was relegated to a position of minor importance. Soloing-out was a meaningful part of our training that was yet to be matched on any terms. Flying solo marked the dividing line between that which could possibly be construed as an essentially group effort with group support for the individual effort, and the reality of each man's comprehension of that which he must know as an individual. In the achievement of soloing, rah-rah-ism and group movement has a minor role. That the group could not elevate or destroy each man's desire to become a skillful, competent pilot was a fact quickly and almost instinctively recognized by members of the class. This fact gave us a separateness which became characteristic of our activities. It was not something that worked to ease friction under a pressing and often times demanding workload, but it was an important factor in producing solid, professional pilots. Initial solos marked the end of Part I and formed the basis for the total experience of pilot training.


(Continued on next page).




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